Sunday, July 15, 2012

Candy Everybody Wants / The Dancing Bear / Daktari

Candy Everybody Wants (from the 10,000 Maniacs album Our Time In Eden)

if lust and hate is the candy 
if blood and love tastes so sweet 
then we give 'em what they want 

hey, hey, give 'em what they want 

so their eyes are growing hazy 
'cos they wanna turn it on 
so their minds are soft and lazy 
well, hey, give 'em what they want

if lust and hate is the candy 
if blood and love tastes so sweet 
then we give 'em what they want 

so their eyes are growing hazy 
'cos they wanna turn it on 
so their minds are soft and lazy 

well... who do you want to blame? 

hey, hey, give 'em what they want 
if lust and hate is the candy 
 if blood and love tastes so sweet 
then we give 'em what they want 

so their eyes are growing hazy 
'cos they wanna turn it on 
so their minds are soft and lazy 

well... who do you want to blame? 
________________________________________

The Dancing Bear (from the album Leave Your Sleep; words by Albert Bigelow Paine)

Oh, it's fiddle-de-dum and fiddle-de-dee, 
The dancing bear ran away with me; 
For the organ-grinder he came to town 
With a jolly old bear in a coat of brown. 
And the funny old chap joined hands with me, 
While I cut a caper and so did he. 
Then 'twas fiddle-de-dum and fiddle-de-dee, 
I looked at him, and he winked at me, 
 And I whispered a word in his shaggy ear, 
And I said, "I will go with you, my dear." 

Then the dancing bear he smiled and said, 
Well, he didn't say much, but he nodded his head, 
As the organ-grinder began to play "Over the hills and far away." 
With a fiddle-de-dum and a fiddle-de-dee; 
 Oh, I looked at him and he winked at me, 
And my heart was light and the day was fair, 
And away I went with the dancing bear. 

Oh, ’tis fiddle-de-dum and fiddle-de-dee, 
The dancing bear came back with me; 
For the sugar-plum trees were stripped and bare, 
And we couldn't find cookies anywhere. 
And the solemn old fellow he sighed and said, 
Well, he didn't say much, but he shook his head, 
While I looked at him and he blinked at me 
Till I shed a tear and so did he; 
And both of us thought of our supper that lay 
Over the hills and far away. 
Then the dancing bear he took my hand, 
And we hurried away through the twilight land; 
And 'twas fiddle-de-dum and fiddle-de-dee 
When the dancing bear came back with me. 
_____________________________________________

Daktari (from the 10,000 Maniacs album The Wishing Chair)

Like a weasel in the clover 
you tilt toss pop turn over 
sit down 

Tremble and weave like a moth 
by flame deceived 
sit down 

Like a weasel in the clover 
you tilt toss pop turn over
sit down! 

tremble and weave like a moth 
by flame deceived 
sit down 

Spill with your words caught up dance in your room slide like you're buttered up roll back the tomb 
sit down 

When the thunderclouds sound 
ants scatter to high ground 
sit down 

Bolt scuff jilt chase circle riddle 
shake in haste 
sit down 

Bolt scuff jilt chase circle riddle 
shake in haste 
sit down 

When the thunderclouds sound 
ants scatter to high ground 
sit down 


Recently, for a stretch of about 2 years, I lived in two different studio apartments. I'd never lived anywhere so small before in my life. They were both under 500 square feet. It would be relatively comfortable if I lived alone, but with a spouse and two cats and even my very modest amount of possessions it sometimes bordered on anarchy. There's really no place to escape to, not even to a solitary corner, when you share such a small space with other living beings. So late last year when we moved into a bigger place, it sort of felt like Shangri La. I kept marveling at how I could stretch my arms out in both directions and not hit walls.

My new home has an extra bedroom I've dubbed “the Gallery.” Pretty much all it holds at this point is some artwork on the walls and an old rug on the floor. You get rid of all unnecessary possessions when you move into a tiny apartment and then when it's time to move into a bigger place you find you having nothing to fill all the space with. I don't mind it, though. I love the open spaces. I have no urge to fill them up. The Gallery is my favorite room in the house. It's a good place for thinking. And it's a great place for my newest favorite thing in life – the one man dance party.

I like dancing. I've always liked it. But I've tended to do it only when there was occasion to do so – a party, wedding, concert, etc. Sure I might dance around a little absentmindedly when I'm listening to music as I go about various tasks, but I never set aside time just to dance – unabashedly, unashamedly, and wholeheartedly. But sometime back I got the urge to dance and decided to test out the Gallery as my own private dance hall. It was a good idea. Gallery by day, Dance Hall by night.

One of the most important aspects of these little dance parties is the solitude of it. No matter who I'm with and how comfortable with them I may be in general, I will always feel somewhat inhibited dancing with others. Dancing all by myself, on the other hand, is totally freeing. I can be as wild or ridiculous as I want to be. There's no one there to laugh at me or to even try to get in a groove with me. I'm perfectly alone with my music. It's the best.

As far as danceability goes, in my mind there is one 10,000 Maniacs song that stands far above the rest – Candy Everybody Wants. I love dancing to this song. I think the music is irresistible. Coupled with very biting, witty lyrics, I have to say this is definitely in my top 10 favorite Maniacs songs, maybe top 5.

One thing about danceable music in general, though, is that the lyrics tend to askew deep, thought-provoking subjects. This is fine by me. I listen to different music for different needs and moods. I do not require dance music to be thought-provoking. But if the words happen to be really, really great, well...that's just a bonus. Candy Everybody Wants surely falls into that category. It's typical that the most upbeat, danceable song by the Maniacs musically is still going to be coupled with edgy lyrics. I wouldn't have it any other way. While the lyrics have a message, it's not one that's so dour it takes the fun out of the music or feels inappropriate. If the music from Candy Everybody Wants was matched with the lyrics of What's the Matter Here, I'm not sure I could bounce around the room with quite such a fervor. Here are some quotes from Natalie about the song:

"The song is complete satire, and the fact that it might end up being on Top Forty radio is real interesting. I think it would be the first pop song in a long time to have lyrics like 'If lust and hate is the candy, if blood and love taste so sweet, then give them what they want.' They're not typical pop lyrics, and it's very subversive."*

"I am really disgusted with television in the United States - like an 81-year-old friend of mine says, 'Television is the ruination of our nation'! Who are these people who decide what goes on TV, what qualifies for the nightly news? It's as if we might drop dead if we're not constantly stimulated, or even worse, we might stop buying the products they want us to. I stay away from TV as much as possible, but when I do watch, I'm just astounded at what's going on. It's such an alien cultural force - it's like it's not my country anymore."**

The Dancing Bear was the first song I heard from Leave Your Sleep. It was released as a preview several weeks before the album came out. It was the only song I indulged myself in – I saved the rest for when the album came out. But from the very first time I heard it, I was in love. Deeply. While it is a very difficult thing for me to pick a favorite song off of Leave Your Sleep, if I was forced to do so The Dancing Bear would have to be my choice. I love the song so much I wish I could cuddle up with it and caress its cheeks. Have I gone too far? Oh, I don't think I've gone nearly far enough.

The song really is incredibly joyous. The musicians on the recording clearly seem to be having a ball. I only notice this when I listen to the song on headphones, but at one point somebody yells out, “Hey!” It's barely audible, so it can't have been “scripted.” I like to think it was unbridled joy mixed with a rebellious disregard for production values. I once tried to win over some teenagers to Natalie's music. They proved predictably difficult to inspire...until I put on The Dancing Bear. That won them over. They kept saying how much it made them want to get up and dance. The song is playing as I type this and my husband just came in the room to get something and then danced his way out. It's irresistible, I say!

When I saw Natalie in concert back in 2010, the song I most wanted her to perform was The Dancing Bear. It wasn't just because I loved the song, though. It was because I wanted to see Natalie dance to this song. I love watching Natalie dance. Even though I doubt this is entirely true, she certainly gives the impression of someone who is dancing with reckless abandon. She gives every song its own interpretive treatment. I find it impossible not to smile while watching her gleefully bounding around the stage. She didn't let me down that night. During the performance of The Dancing Bear she looked as happy as I felt. A quote from Natalie regarding Leave Your Sleep:

"Everybody thought I was out of my mind. Now, I think I'm vindicated. I think they understand. I kept telling people 'well, wait 'til you hear it.' When you hear it and say '19th century poetry,' people get a particular impression. They don't think of reggae sounds or Cajun sounds. They don't see Natalie dancing around their living room. They think candlelight, pensive and morose."***

Now it's time for a brief new segment I'm introducing to the blog. I call it “Songs I'm Not Really Sure What to Say About.” I'm getting down to the last several songs in Natalie's catalogue to cover (21 more after today to be exact.) There were bound to be a few challenging ones. What can I say about Daktari? The word “daktari” is Swahili for doctor. It was also the name of an American TV show from the 60s about a veterinarian and his small animal menagerie. Do either of these factoids relate to the song? I doubt it, but who could know? The lyrics don't exactly shed light on any...thing. It's repetitive and Mom-voiced command to “sit down” is about the only thing I can audibly make out unless I follow along with a lyric sheet. Daktari is kids' stuff; youngsters making music for the first time. But it's fun enough as a background diversion and while I wouldn't put it at the top of any one man dance party playlists, it would certainly do in a pinch.

As promised last time, I wanted to mention something again about the Natalie concert I went to last month. This time around, as opposed to the last time I saw her perform two years ago, her dancing was understandably more understated, given the different musical configuration and setlist. But still, she was incredibly elegant. Between songs, she always seems fully engaged with her audience and fellow musicians, but during the songs she seems so transported. It's like her body is a conduit for the music. She never gives the impression that she is dancing for our amusement but simply as a natural response to whatever song she's performing. In an age when so many performers resort to sharing the stage with huge video screens projecting glorified screen savers, it's quite a pleasure to watch a performer who is interesting enough to be her own visual centerpiece.

That's all for me this time around. This post marks a mini-milestone for the blog – with the inclusion of Candy Everybody Wants this week, I have now finished covering all the songs from Our Time In Eden, making it the first album of Natalie/Maniacs material I've covered in its entirety on the blog. We really are coming to the end of the line, folks. But don't worry, at the rate I write nowadays, 21 songs could take me years. See you next time!

Watch the wonderfully weird music video for Candy Everybody Wants:





Download Candy Everybody Wants from Itunes:Candy Everybody Wants - Our Time In Eden

Download The Dancing Bear from Itunes: The Dancing Bear - Leave Your Sleep
 
Download Daktari from Itunes: Daktari - The Wishing Chair

*Rolling Stone - March 1993
**Record Collector - October 1992
***Spinner - June 2010